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Stability And Gripping The Tank And


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I recently put up a poll to ask how people used their bodies when steering on the street (yes, I KNOW the primary steering input comes from the bars). What surprised me was that the largest vote was for gripping the tank with the knees. Who knew?


My primary Body English techniques have always been leaning the upper body into the turn and leaning forward a bit. I've been riding since before Soichiro Honda was born (well almost) and I have NEVER gripped the tank. Why would I? I'm not planning to hang off. There is no way I'm touching a knee down in jeans. I'm not racing in the streets or even speeding. Nobody ever taught me that I SHOULD or even COULD grip the tank with my legs. So, when I read about this in "Twist 2," it went in one ear and out the other. But when I saw so many of you saying that gripping the tank when braking or cornering was your top pick, well, I had to try it. Now, I just don't even know what to think.


With even a little grip on the tank, I feel much more confident and connected to the bike. My hands are not gripping as much and so they don't get tired as fast or cramp up and stop working. The same lean angle feels less risky or dangerous--I guess because I don't feel like I'm going to fall off the bike--not that I consciously felt that way before, mind you, but there it is. And steering--completely different! With both hands and arms relaxed, my giant Gold Wing is completely transformed. With both arms relaxed, this thing steers so fast that it is literally scary. I have to be very careful and gentle approaching my turn points or the bike will just fling itself off the road!


I thought using my legs would be very tiring, but not so much. Mostly, I'm just touching the tank. Only for heavy breaking, big winds or hard braking will I try to actually grip the tank. Most of the time, I'm just riding normally. But when I get into a twisty bit or see a stop coming up, I'll squeeze a little harder. Sometimes I'll get my toes on the pegs AND squeeze because I get better leverage that way. If this technique makes my Wing flick around like a dirt bike, I'm not sure I'll be ABLE to ride the BMW superbikes at the school--I might blink or sneeze and ride right off the track! :rolleyes:


  • So, is this just news to me?
  • Have you guys been riding this way for ages?
  • Is it normal for the bike to feel sooo different once you clamp onto the tank?
  • Can you really get away with such light steering at higher speeds?


Sorry to be such a rube, but thanks to all of you for your input.

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Hi Crash,


Similar to your transformation, I learned the tank grip at CSS Level 1 last year and was amazed that something so simple could make such a difference. I also add an extra twist: Any time my SR's started to kick in and I would get nervous, I would start to tense up my arms. As soon as I realized this, I sort of reprogrammed my "nervous" response into tightening up on the tank and simultaneously relaxing my upper body. The faster I went, the looser my arms got (and the deeper my knees dug into the tank). I asked Keith if there was any problem replacing one nervous habit with another, and he seemed OK with the substitution.


Not only did the bike steer so much better, it corrected itself so much better as well. I took a slightly outside line to pass another rider in T3 at Streets, and the bike slid both tires on some sand; the bike stepped sideways caught, readjusted itself, and continued on like nothing happened. All I did was stay loose on the bars, and lock on to the bike with my knee and footpeg.


When my wife recently did a trackday and was getting a little anxious when people would pass her closely, I reminded her to take that stress and squeeze the tank, relax the arms, and breathe... the bike just takes care of itself.


So, that said, congratulations on your new technique. and Yes, others have done it for some time; Yes, it transforms the bike (for the better); and Yes, the lighter steering at high speeds is actually a good thing. The reason it is light, is that you are no longer fighting the bike for control. As light as the steering now feels, that lightness is allowing the designed geometry of the frame and forks to self stabilize better than you ever could. As a result, your bike is more stable, and when you do want to give it an input, you have a stable pivot point to lever from. The only downside is feeling cheated for all the time you weren't enjoying this standard feature on your motorcycle. :)


BTW, putting some grip pads on the side of the tank makes it so you can get a really good grip with just a light squeeze.



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Hey Crash - When are you going to bite the bullet and hit VIR for level 1 :D ? As much as you have read and participate in this forum it will help pull all of that together. And noting beats having a coach tell you what they see you doing (as opposed to what you think you are doing :P ).


I had a similar experience when my level coach noticed I was pushing on the outside clip on when cornering. I never knew I was doing it and when I started relaxing that outside arm it was like adding power steering (almost ran off track in side the corner the first lap!).

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To help with this, the tank pads are a aid. We have some other threads that cover this, but in short it would be about the first upgrade to any bike I'd consider (street or track).



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Absolutely congrats on your revelation of gripping the tank! :D:D:D


There are definitely a few other "secret tricks" that can do similar transformations of your riding. When I was with CSS at Kinnekulle Ring in Sweden this May, one of the students was riding his CBX1000F (you know, the 6cyl thing). When his coach pointed out that he was taking (unnecessarily) wide turns and creating problems for himself because his lean-in speed was very slow, the student argued that he had to do that due to the width of the bike. After several of us other students sided with the coach and argued that he could actually run with less lean if he made a quicker turning action, the student agreed (somewhat reluctantly) to try it out. When he came back in from the session his eyes were wide open and he was totally blown away by the effect - to him it was as if he had discovered counter-steering once again for the first time!


To answer some of your questions: yes, it is in my experience quite common to feel that the bike is that different (and easy!) to throw around when you clamp onto the tank.

Securing or stabilizing yourself on the bike allows all of the force that you generate to go into the handlebars, instead of spending up to 50% of the effort in just pushing yourself away from the handlebar. Remember Good Old' Sir Isaac Newton's 3rd law of motion: "The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear".



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Thanks for the feedback, guys. Yeah ... I've learned a lot from the books, the Twist video and slow speed classes. I agree it's time to get on the track with a live coach. I'd like to do the 2 day school so I can get on the lean bike. I'm very curious how the bike feels at full lean, but I can't safely play with that on the street, or even really on the track without risking an expensive and dangerous slide. Car tires give so much feedback, but bike tires are so quiet! I just can't seem to develope the trust I want on my own. I hope to see some of you at VIR next Spring.

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